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Posted 18 Jul 2006


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Line Counter - Writing a SharpDevelop Add-In

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18 Jul 2006LGPL3
This article shows you how to start writing SharpDevelop add-ins, by porting Jon Rista's VS add-in to SharpDevelop.

Image 1


When seeing the article Line Counter - Writing a Visual Studio 2005 Add-In [^] written by Jon Rista, I wanted to show you how to write that add-in for SharpDevelop. In this article, I will show you how to create an add-in, but I will not discuss the details of SharpDevelop's add-in architecture here - you can read more about that in my article Building Applications with the SharpDevelop Core [^]. The line counter code is taken from the VS2005 add-in written by Jon Rista; the counting algorithm itself is from Oz Solomon. I will discuss the changes I did to the code in this article - after all, there aren't so many changes required.

Creating a new add-in

Our add-in will be a menu entry in the "Tools" menu that opens a document window displaying the line counter UI. While it is possible to develop SharpDevelop add-ins in Visual Studio, you can get started a lot faster if you use SharpDevelop because it already comes with a project template for an add-in extending the "Tools" menu: "Tools menu entry".

Image 2

We create a SharpDevelop add-in with the name "LineCounter". The "SharpDevelop AddIn" template could also be used, but it starts with an add-in defining a pad (a docked tool window like "Projects", "Properties"); the "Tool menu entry" add-in starts with a menu command. Now let's look at what SharpDevelop has generated for us. We have a project with a few files:

Image 3

First look at the .addin file. The template already defines a menu item in the Tools menu, we'll just modify the label. And we'll add a new section to the .addin file: the <Manifest> section. Our add-in needs a unique identity - use something like a namespace name. Because we don't want lots of add-ins with the identity "AddIn1" around, the template does not contain the manifest section by default. The identity is not strictly required, but it allows us to use SharpDevelop's AddIn Manager for our add-in - and it is also required when other add-ins want to reference your add-in. Because the API between SharpDevelop 2.0.x.y and SharpDevelop 2.1.a.b will change a bit, we use the dependency to ensure that our add-in can only be installed into SharpDevelop 2.0.*.*. Since our LineCounter will only work when a solution is opened, we put the menu item inside a <Condition name="SolutionOpen" action="disable">. Here is how the content of LineCounter add-in should look like after these steps:

<AddIn name        = "LineCounter"

       author      = "Daniel Grunwald"

       url         = ""

       description = "Advanced line counter AddIn">
        <Dependency addin="SharpDevelop" version="2.0"/>
        <Import assembly = "LineCounter.dll"/>
    <Path name = "/Workspace/Tools">
        <!-- disable our menu item if condition "SolutionOpen" is not met -->
        <Condition name="SolutionOpen" action = "disable">
            <MenuItem id = "LineCounterCommand1"

                      label = "Show Line Counter"

                      class = "Grunwald.LineCounter.ToolCommand1"/>

Our menu item uses the "class" attribute. When the menu item is clicked, SharpDevelop will create an instance of this class and call its Run() method. This class is defined in the file Command.cs. The example code from the template accesses the currently opened text editor and reverses the letters in the currently selected text. We are not interested in accessing the text editor, so we can delete the content of the Run() method and start writing our own.


However, first we want to get our add-in running. For testing, we'll display a MessageBox inside Run(). If you now try to compile the add-in, you'll get errors about missing references. This is because the template is missing the assembly references to the SharpDevelop libraries - these have to hard-coded paths in most cases, so you should add them manually. Add references to ICSharpCode.Core.dll and ICSharpCode.SharpDevelop.dll from the bin directory of your SharpDevelop installation. ICSharpCode.Core contains the add-in system, and also the base class for our menu command. ICSharpCode.SharpDevelop is the largest part of SharpDevelop, it contains the project system and many other things. Make sure you set "Local copy" for the references to False.

Image 4

You should now be able to successfully compile the project. If you look into the bin/Debug directory, you will see a copy of the LineCounter add-in, the compiled LineCounter.dll, and the debug symbols. If you want to test your add-in, you need to register it with SharpDevelop. The best way for testing is to copy these files to the AddIns directory of your SharpDevelop installation. Restart SharpDevelop to load the add-in. You should see the "Line Counter" command in the Tools menu, disabled until you open a solution. If you click the menu item, the message box should show up. If you want to update your add-in, you'll need to shutdown SharpDevelop, copy the files, and restart it. If you do this a few times, you'll probably want to use a separate installation of SharpDevelop to develop your add-in, so you can leave your development environment opened. Alternatively, you could use Visual Studio to write your add-in...

Creating the line counter

Now to the real work: implementing the line counter. We want to display the line counter user interface as a document, like the start page. Document views in SharpDevelop are called ViewContents. There are two types of view contents: primary and secondary. A primary view content is capable of displaying something on its own; a secondary view content extends another view content by displaying multiple tabs in the document - SharpDevelop's Windows.Forms designer is a secondary view content. We want to display a simple document view, so we'll use a normal (primary) view content.

Showing such a view content is easy:

public override void Run()
    WorkbenchSingleton.Workbench.ShowView(new LineCounterViewContent());

Now create the new class named LineCounterViewContent. Let it derive from ICSharpCode.SharpDevelop.Gui.AbstractViewContent to get the default implementations for most of the IViewContent members. We will need to implement the abstract property Control - here we have to return the control to display.

public class LineCounterViewContent : AbstractViewContent
    LineCounterBrowser browser = new LineCounterBrowser();
    public override Control Control {
        get { return browser; }
    public LineCounterViewContent() {
        this.TitleName = "Line Counter";

This control is a UserControl copied from the Visual Studio Line Counter article [^] — copy LineCounterBrowser.* into the "Src" directory and use "Add existing file" to add LineCounterBrowser.cs to the project. SharpDevelop should add LineCounterBrowser.Designer.cs and LineCounterBrowser.resx automatically. Now, we still have to change the parts where the line counter references Visual Studio's EnvDTE class and replace them with the appropriate calls to the SharpDevelop API.

Accessing the project in SharpDevelop

First, fix the using-statements: remove those importing Visual Studio namespaces. Instead we will use:

using ICSharpCode.SharpDevelop.Project;

Then remove the variable and property referencing the EnvDTE object. Now, move on to the methods. The first method requiring a rewrite is "ScanSolution". We can simply get the solution instance from a static class: ProjectService.

Solution solution = ProjectService.OpenSolution;
if (solution != null)  // OpenSolution is null when no solution is opened
    FileInfo fiSolution = new FileInfo(solution.FileName);

SharpDevelop doesn't need "plural" classes like "Projects", but uses the standard .NET collection classes. Unlike Visual Studio, solution.Projects returns all projects; including those in solution folders. It's implemented as an iterator (with yield return), that's why you don't have something simple as solution.Projects.Count. As I cannot really imagine solutions with thousands of projects, we can just copy the values returned by the iterator into a list to have a normal collection to work with.

List<IProject> projects = new List<IProject>(solution.Projects);
tsprgTotal.Maximum = projects.Count;
tsprgTask.Value = 0;
foreach (IProject fiProject in projects) {

As you might guess, IProject is the interface all projects implement. The actual object type depends on the project type - every language binding comes with its own project class (but SharpDevelop contains the classes AbstractProject and MSBuildProject they can inherit most functionality from). The loop body can be simplified quite a bit: SharpDevelop will display its usual error handling dialog box for unhandled exceptions, so we don't need to use try-catch to redirect them to the debug view (where nobody really reads them...). The language ID is a straightforward property of the IProject interface, so no need to query the CodeModel.

foreach (IProject fiProject in projects) {
    string projName, lang;
    if (fiProject.FileName.IndexOf("://") != -1)
        projName = fiProject.FileName; // this is a web project
        lang = "{00000001-0000-0000-0000-000000000000}";
    } else {
        projName = fiProject.Name;
        lang = fiProject.TypeGuid;

    int iconIndex;
    // default icon 0
    m_projIconMappings.TryGetValue(lang, out iconIndex);
    summary = new LineCountSummary(projName, iconIndex);

    tsprgTask.Maximum = 0;
    tsprgTotal.Value = 0;
    ScanProjectItems(fiProject.Items, summary);

ScanProjectItems is the next method we'll look at. ProjectItems becomes List<ProjectItem>. You'll also need to change the summary since SharpDevelop stores all project items in this collection - no need to use recursion to get the Designer.cs files. In the SharpDevelop model, every project item is exactly one file. This simplifies the method greatly:

private void ScanProjectItems(List<ProjectItem> projectItems, 
                              LineCountSummary summary)
    tsprgTask.Maximum += projectItems.Count;
    foreach (ProjectItem projectItem in projectItems)
        if (!(projectItem is FileProjectItem)) {
            // Skip references and other special MSBuild things
        string projectFile = projectItem.FileName;
        if (!Directory.Exists(projectFile))
            int iconIndex = 0;
                                           out iconIndex);
            summary.FileLineCountInfo.Add(new LineCountInfo(projectFile, 
                                          iconIndex, summary));

Now try to compile again. The only thing missing is "CodeModelLanguageConstants", a class containing the GUIDs for C#, VB, and (M)C++. SharpDevelop supports C#, VB, Boo, and MSIL projects; this does not match the icons we imported from the Visual Studio add-in. We'll look for a way to get icons directly from SharpDevelop soon; for now, just hard-code the values for C# and VB:

// Map project types to icons for use in the projects list
m_projIconMappings = new Dictionary<string, int>();
m_projIconMappings.Add("{00000000-0000-0000-0000-000000000000}", 0);
m_projIconMappings.Add("{FAE04EC0-301F-11D3-BF4B-00C04F79EFBC}", 1); // C#
m_projIconMappings.Add("{F184B08F-C81C-45F6-A57F-5ABD9991F28F}", 2); // VB
m_projIconMappings.Add("{00000001-0000-0000-0000-000000000000}", 5);

This fixes all compile errors. And if you test it, you'll find that it even runs correctly! :-)

Although the extension process is very different in SharpDevelop and Visual Studio, the API is quite similar - after all, both are modelling MSBuild solutions and a similar feature set. I hope this shows you that porting add-ins from Visual Studio to SharpDevelop isn't very hard, and we would like to see more SharpDevelop add-ins in the future.

Here an image showing the add-in counting itself:

Image 5

Possible improvements

While this is a basic port of the add-in to SharpDevelop, there are lots of possibilities for improvement.

Getting icons from SharpDevelop

First, we to replace some bad code in AddFileListItem. Remove the code from the "TODO: Add image index setting" command to the "lvi.ImageIndex = iconIndex;" line and replace it with "lvi.ImageIndex = info.IconIndex;". Now, only one read-access on the m_fileIconMappings hashtable is left - the one in ScanProjectItems.

Before we can continue, we need to be aware how SharpDevelop deals with icons: menu items are defined in XML, and can be shown before the add-in library is loaded. Because of that, resource files can be registered in XML, which makes the icons inside it available to the ICSharpCode.Core.ResourceService. Add-ins like language bindings can register such file extensions and project types with such icons. SharpDevelop's class IconService provides convenient methods for accessing these icons: GetImageForFile or GetImageForProjectType gets the icon's name by looking up the project type or file extension. If you have an icon name, you can use GetBitmap or GetIcon to access it. The ResourceService converts between Bitmap and Icon on demand, but it is suggested to use .png bitmaps in the resource files and the GetBitmap method to load them. This means with these simple IconService methods, we can load the bitmap for the correct project/file type, just like SharpDevelop's project browser does.

The line counter code uses image lists with a few predefined images. Because I do not want to change it, I will just introduce a new class ImageListHelper that can add SharpDevelop icons to an existing image list.

public class ImageListHelper
    ImageList imageList;
    Dictionary<string, int> dict = new Dictionary<string, int>();
    public ImageListHelper(ImageList imageList)
        if (imageList == null)
            throw new ArgumentNullException("imageList");
        this.imageList = imageList;
    public int GetIndex(string imageName)
        int index;
        if (!dict.TryGetValue(imageName, out index)) {
            index = imageList.Images.Count;
            dict[imageName] = index;
        return index;

We will use two instances of this class to control the two image lists, imgProjectTypes and imgFileTypes. ScanSolution() gets the icon index from m_projIconMappings - we will change this line to use our ImageListHelper instead. Replace "m_projIconMappings.TryGetValue(lang, out iconIndex);" with:

iconIndex = projectImageListHelper.GetIndex(

Do the same for the file icons in ScanProjectItems():

iconIndex = fileImageListHelper.GetIndex(

Now the add-in uses the icons shipped with SharpDevelop, and will automatically use the icons of other languages added to SharpDevelop.

Adding new counting algorithms

The great thing about the SharpDevelop add-in infrastructure is that it allows an add-in to extend another. We will modify the Line Counter in such a way that it is possible for other add-ins to introduce new counting algorithms. We want to lazy-load our counting algorithms only when a file of the specified type is encountered. This leads to the doozer-descriptor-implementation pattern you will often see for extendable SharpDevelop features.

In the AddInTree, one can register classes - we already did this with the command for our menu item. We will add a new path to the AddInTree containing counting algorithm implementations. We will have to use classes instead of methods to be able to register them in the AddInTree, so let's create an interface and the classes:

public interface ICountingAlgorithm
    void CountLines(LineCountInfo info);

public class CountingAlgorithmGeneric : ICountingAlgorithm {
    public void CountLines(LineCountInfo info) {
public class CountingAlgorithmCStyle : ICountingAlgorithm {
    public void CountLines(LineCountInfo info) {
public class CountingAlgorithmVBStyle : ICountingAlgorithm {
    public void CountLines(LineCountInfo info) {
public class CountingAlgorithmXmlStyle : ICountingAlgorithm {
    public void CountLines(LineCountInfo info) {

The Count* methods in LineCounterBrowser have been changed from private to internal static. We still need a way to associate the algorithms with file extensions. This is done directly in the XML code defining the AddInTree:

<Path name = "/AddIns/LineCounter/CountingAlgorithms">

        id = "Generic"

        extensions = ".txt;.res;.sql;.cd"

        class = "LineCounterAddin.CountingAlgorithmGeneric" />

        id = "CStyle"

        extensions = ".cs;.vj;.js;.cpp;.cc;.cxx;.

        class = "LineCounterAddin.CountingAlgorithmCStyle" />

        id = "VBStyle"

        extensions = ".vb;.vbs"

        class = "LineCounterAddin.CountingAlgorithmVBStyle" />

        id = "XmlStyle"

        extensions = ".xml;.xsl;.xslt;.xsd;.config;.resx;.

        class = "LineCounterAddin.CountingAlgorithmXmlStyle" />

Because we are using custom attributes, we are using a new codon name "LineCountingAlgorithm". Don't be irritated that it's not defined in the XML schema for .addin files - we are creating a new possible codon name here; the XML schema is just for code completion when editing the .addin file. Now how can we define this codon type? Constructing objects from the AddInTree is done by the doozers (the name comes from these guys [^]). This means you have to register a new doozer for line counting algorithms. This is done by editing the <Runtime> section of your .addin file:

<Import assembly = "LineCounter.dll">
    <Doozer name="LineCountingAlgorithm" 


The CountingAlgorithmDoozer class has to implement the ICSharpCode.Core.IDoozer interface:

public class CountingAlgorithmDoozer : IDoozer
    public bool HandleConditions {
        get {
            // our doozer cannot handle conditions, let SharpDevelop
            // do that for us
            return false;
    public object BuildItem(object caller, Codon codon, 
                  System.Collections.ArrayList subItems)
        return new CountingAlgorithmDescriptor(codon.AddIn,

This means our doozer will always build objects of the type CountingAlgorithmDescriptor. Let's define that class:

public class CountingAlgorithmDescriptor
    AddIn addIn;
    string[] extensions;
    string className;
    public CountingAlgorithmDescriptor(AddIn addIn, 
           string extensions, string className)
        this.addIn = addIn;
        this.extensions = extensions.ToLowerInvariant().Split(';');
        this.className = className;
    public bool CanCountLines(LineCountInfo info)
        return (Array.IndexOf(extensions, 
                info.FileType.ToLowerInvariant()) >= 0);
    ICountingAlgorithm cachedAlgorithm;
    public ICountingAlgorithm GetAlgorithm()
        if (cachedAlgorithm == null) {
            cachedAlgorithm = (ICountingAlgorithm)addIn.CreateObject(className);
        return cachedAlgorithm;

Now the LineCounterBrowser code has to be changed to use the code we just wrote. We will need a member variable storing the list of existing counting algorithms:

List<CountingAlgorithmDescriptor> countingAlgorithms;

Initializing this list in the constructor is easy:

countingAlgorithms = AddInTree.BuildItems<CountingAlgorithmDescriptor>
                        ("/AddIns/LineCounter/CountingAlgorithms", this);
// Iterate through algorithms to fill list of known countable types
foreach (CountingAlgorithmDescriptor desc in countingAlgorithms) {

And finally, replace the usage of m_countAlgorithms in the inner try-catch block in SumSolution() with this code:

foreach (CountingAlgorithmDescriptor desc in countingAlgorithms) {
    if (desc.CanCountLines(info)) {

So, let's reiterate how this extension model works:

When SharpDevelop starts, SharpDevelop only loads your .addin file, but this bit of XML parsing is quite fast. Your .dll is not loaded, but SharpDevelop remembers where it has to look when the CountingAlgorithmDoozer is needed. Now the user opens a solution and clicks on "Tools > Show Line Counter". Launching the menu command will load you add-in assembly and create an instance of the ToolCommand1 class and call Run() on it. The LineCounterBrowser constructor now calls AddInTree.BuildItems for /AddIns/LineCounter/CountingAlgorithms. To build the items in that path, the doozer is required, so SharpDevelop creates the doozer instance here and uses it to build all items. The doozer does not create instances of the algorithm classes; it only creates a descriptor instance.

Only when counting the lines in a file of any matching extension, the descriptor creates an instance of the class. The "AddIn" stored is the context in which the class name occurred - it knows which runtime assemblies were specified in that XML file.

If there were additional algorithms in other assemblies (for example, a Boo line counter), those assemblies would be loaded only if you count files in those languages.

This means unused SharpDevelop add-ins use very little memory and startup time (if their extension points are coded properly) - it only takes parsing the XML, and storing the resulting codons in a compact object tree where they are mixed with the other addins' codons.

Creating an add-in installation package

Now to move to a completely different and much easier topic at the end: we want to have an easy way for users to install, update, and uninstall our add-in.

Creating a SharpDevelop add-in installation package (.sdaddin file) is easy. Just create a Zip file containing LineCounter.addin and LineCounter.dll, and rename the Zip file to "LineCounter.sdaddin". That really was everything you had to do - double-clicking this .sdaddin file will open SharpDevelop's AddIn Manager where you can install the add-in with just one click. Add-ins installed this way will be extracted to %Application Data%\.ICSharpCode\SharpDevelop2\AddIns.

Image 6

More add-in writing help


SharpDevelop 2.0 is released under the terms of the GNU Lesser General Public License. In plain English, that means you can use any license you want for your own add-ns and do not have to open-source them. You only have to release modifications to the SharpDevelop libraries.


This article shows you how to start writing SharpDevelop add-ins. It is a complete walkthrough from creating a new project to creating the installation package.


  • 18th July, 2006: Article published (based on SharpDevelop


This article, along with any associated source code and files, is licensed under The GNU Lesser General Public License (LGPLv3)


About the Author

Daniel Grunwald
Germany Germany
I am the lead developer on the SharpDevelop open source project.

Comments and Discussions

GeneralCool Pin
bneacetp18-Mar-07 18:13
Memberbneacetp18-Mar-07 18:13 
GeneralNot bad. :) Pin
Jon Rista11-Aug-06 15:09
MemberJon Rista11-Aug-06 15:09 
GeneralSource Pin
OmegaSupreme23-Jul-06 4:59
MemberOmegaSupreme23-Jul-06 4:59 
GeneralRe: Source Pin
Daniel Grunwald23-Jul-06 7:00
MemberDaniel Grunwald23-Jul-06 7:00 

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